Thursday July 7 1986

Rangiroa. Taumotos

Sunny and Hot

Passage to the Tuamotus

A little over 600 miles separate the high volcanic islands of the Marqueses from the low coral islands of the Tuamotus. The Tuamotus were first named the 'Dangerous Archipelago' by Capt. Cook in the 1700's. He named them well, as the first sight of the tops of the palms is only six or seven miles away. Constant vigilance, and careful navigation are required when 'closing' these islands.

Five days of the most perfect trade wind sailing followed the departure on the 21st. The weather was warm and sunny, but not hot. Winds were steady at 10 to 12 knots, and we were logging 100 to 120 miles each day. During the five days I didn't have to change the autopilot setting nor adjust the sheets. The noon sight on June 25 indicated that I was way off my DR (dead reckoning) position. Upon checking I found that a small adjusting screw on the sextant had broken. As with the propane, no sweat, I'll dig out the back-up sextant. The back-up, which came with the boat, had lost most of the silver from the mirrors and couldn't be used. However since the two sextants were alike, I was able the rob the proper adjusting screw and was back in business. Taking a new line-of-position showed that I would arrive at Ahe island after dark. I may not be prudent in most of my life, but when sailing, I call myself the 'Chicken-of-the-Sea'. No way was I even going close to Ahe at night. So I shifted destination to the island of Rangiroa, 60 miles further. The noon sight on the 26th yielded a calculated position 12 miles off Rangiroa. I figured to see the tops of the palms at about 1:30 or 2:00, and sure enough, there they were, right on time.


Rangiroa is typical of all atolls the world over. A central lagoon is encircled by small islands, called motus. Atolls can be small with few motus, or in the case of Rangiroa, huge with hundreds of motus and a central lagoon of more than 100 miles across. The motus are only 10 to 20 feet high, and during hurricanes or big storms, are often over-swept by the seas. whole motus were washed away or swept clean by the hurricanes of 1983. Rangiroa is the largest atoll in the Taumotus group, over 120 miles across.

The entrance into Rangiroa is a tight passage, no wider that a hundred feet. I had not considered the arrival time in relation to the tidal currents. If I had (being the chicken that I am) 'standing out' for a couple of hours would have been a good idea. But, no I went ahead into the passage. The current was running in at 6 to 8 knots. ODJ acted like a log being swept down the river during a flood. Boat rudders do not work if the water is moving at the same speed as the boat. ODJ acted like a wild horse, spininng clear around, pointing either bow or stern to the current. I had absolutley no control. The current lessened as I finally entered. A cheer went up from the hundred or so Rangiroians geathered on shore. Later I was to join them whenever a sail was sighted, it beats watching TV.

At about 4:30 I dropped the hook in 35 feet of the clearest water that I've ever seen. When we were in Mexico I thought that the water was clear when we could see 10 to 20 feet. Here the bottom was clearly visable 50 to 70 feet. I watched as the pull of the boat rolled the anchor over and it dug in. The isolated coral-heads rose frum the bottom to within 8 to 10 feet of the surface. It made for superb snorkeling right off the deck. There were two other boats in the anchorage, and I had an immediate invitation to dinner on Si-Ti-Si. Mary and John (!) have been cruising in these waters since 1952 and had a wealth of knowledge. I was able to payback information kind for kind as they were planning to sail to Baja next year. The ten days that 1 spent on Rangiroa were a real high point in my voyage. Days were spent diving amid the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. It was like swimming in an aquarium, and with the water tempertures in the high eightys you could stay in all day. Every night I had fish or clams or oysters or lobster. Atho I can hardly believe it now, I wrote in my log that I was glad to fix corned-beef hash as a change from seafood! Using hindsight I wish that I had spent more time here, and I hope someday to return, but my temporary visa alllowed only 30 days from Nuka Hiva to Tahiti, so we had to get going.

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